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N2411V accident description

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Tail numberN2411V
Accident dateApril 30, 2000
Aircraft typeGreen GTX-SE-FI
LocationGillette, WY
Additional details: None

NTSB description

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On April 30, 2000, at 0825 mountain daylight time, a Green GTX-SE-FI experimental amateur-built gyrocopter (or gyroplane), N2411V, was destroyed when it broke up in flight and impacted terrain about 5 miles south of Gillette, Wyoming. There was fire after impact. The airline transport certificated pilot, who was the owner and builder of the gyrocopter, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed for the personal flight being conducted under Title 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from the pilot's private airstrip approximately 0820.

According to the Campbell County Sheriff's Department incident report (#00-03057), there were several witnesses to the accident. Witness no. 1 said he heard the gyrocopter take off from the pilot's private airstrip. It was flying low and the engine sounded like it was "racing," then he saw "the rotors come apart in the air." Witness no. 2 said he heard the gyrocopter and it sounded like the engine was "sputtering." He saw the helicopter flying low, then there was an "explosion, [and] debris flying [off]. . .it looked like it came apart in the air." Witness no. 3 heard the gyrocopter "flying low and the engine was sputtering. . .There was an explosion and fire coming" from the gyrocopter.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to FAA documents, the pilot was a former professional pilot, and was type rated in the Falcon and Learjet series business aircraft. Between May 1970 and December 1971, the pilot flew 1,600 combat missions in Viet Nam. He was shot down seven times and wounded several times, resulting in FAA granting him a medical waiver for the partial loss of his leg. On February 18, 1971, the pilot received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Laotian Legion of Valor for "extraordinary heroism" when he rescued two injured pilots amid heavy enemy fire after their helicopter was shot down in Laos.

According to a portion of the flight logbook submitted for review, the pilot accumulated 9.1 hours in a similar gyroplane between January 8 and 11, 2000. Between January 3 and April 14, 2000, the last entry in his logbook, the pilot flew N2411V for 21.5 hours.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to the aircraft maintenance records, construction of N2411V (s/n H2-00-11-442) was completed on January 3, 2000. The gyroplane was equipped with a Subaru EJ2.5 fuel injected engine (s/n 414959), rated at 155 horsepower; a Warp 4-blade wooden propeller (s/n 11276); and two composite rotor blades (s/n 3331 ZBT and 3337 ZBT). It had an empty weight of 820 pounds and a useful load of 720 pounds. A Special Airworthiness Certificate was issued by FAA's Rapid City, South Dakota, Flight Standards District Office on March 31, 2000.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

An FAA inspector from the Casper, Wyoming, Flight Standards Field Office responded to the accident site. He was assisted in the wreckage examination by a close friend of the pilot who was also familiar with the aircraft. They reported finding no evidence of the rotor blades separating inflight, but there was evidence that the blades struck the vertical stabilizer and rudder and severed the tail boom. Two blades of the 4-blade propeller were shattered.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy (AC00-5) was performed at the request of the Campbell County Coroner.

A review of the pilot's FAA medical certification file indicated the pilot had been granted waivers based on statements of demonstrated ability. He reported no history of substance abuse or recurring problems as a result of his combat wounds.

A toxicology screen was performed by FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI). According to CAMI's report (#200000082001), morphine, codeine, and trazodone (an analgesic) were detected in the pilot's urine. The pilot's friend said he thought the pilot may have taken these drugs to either ease the pain of recent dental work received at the Veterans Hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota, or to ease the pain of his combat wounds. Both CAMI's and NTSB's physicians stated the latter scenario was unlikely. Since the drugs were only detected in the urine, it was indicative that they had been ingested at some previous time and was not a factor in the accident. Additionally, morphine is a metabolite of codeine.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The friend was asked what would cause the main rotor blades to strike the aircraft. He said that if the pilot was flying at high speed and was to suddenly increase the angle of attack and abruptly move the cyclic control aft, the main rotor blades could conceivably strike the tail boom. The aircraft was seen by several witnesses to be flying at low altitude, and the accident site was near abruptly rising terrain. He recalled an incident involving the pilot that occurred in late March 2000. The pilot was taking off from Gillette-Campbell County Airport. He accelerated to a high ground speed before increasing the angle of attack for liftoff. The rotor blades struck the runway and were damaged to the extent that they had to be replaced.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.